How are we all doing? Keeping up the resolutions? Good, good...
I have to say I am feeling pretty proud of myself so far... firstly, I did the very first Parkrun of the year even though it was tipping it down with rain!! As a 'well done' I was allowed entry to a competition to win a place at the Virgin London Marathon. Maybe I'll do a marathon this year then? Or not... Oh Cripes; hope I don't actually win...
Then when I got in, I noticed OH had accidentally opened a letter for me from the bank. Apparently I'd gone over my overdraft limit and they were going to charge me £10. TEN SQUID! I was livid!
I have signed up for a text alert so I get notification if I am nearing my limit within £50 or so. I can then go into my account online and pay in money to my account before 3.30pm to make sure I don't get charged. On the day in question I got the alert because I was close to the limit. So I went online, made sure I wasn't actually over, and then checked again at various points through the day. So I knew darn well I hadn't been.
Most people would just shrug their shoulders and eat more chocolate at such news. But I work hard to earn every tenner and I'm not going to put up with a charge like that. I mean a tenner - that's a round!
I decided to call in at the bank in person and sort it out. If you are ever going to do this, you must remember the golden rules of (cuts both ways) customer service:
- Remember the person serving you is a human being; never be aggressive or rude. Keep your eyes friendly, your voice calm.
- Use phrases like, I understand why you have to say that, but; I appreciate your position on that particular issue, however. Basically, soften up before you say 'but'.
- They do have to be a gatekeeper and say no, but be persistent. And persistence shouldn't become aggressively persistent. If you reach an impasse, pause before going back to an earlier point.
- A good way of getting them to understand where you are coming from is to ask questions. "If these transactions were done overnight, shouldn't I have seen them on my statement in the day?"
- Don't argue about anything you know you are wrong about - you will trip up. They've seen it all and can spot chancers a mile off.
- Remember to say thank you - a lot. Thank them for checking the facts again, looking things up for you, and thank them after they have helped.
And, dear reader, you will be pleased to know after a bit of persistence, I got my money back. And then the same person was an absolute lovely and helped me bag up my post-Christmas piggy bank change so I could bank it.
It's worth noting that when you sign up to an overdraft facility it's at the bank's discretion. But they look at the long-term benefits of letting you have access to services like that (because they can make more money) and as long as you don't become a credit risk or a bit of a banking lemon, it does them more good to keep you on side. Hence, going into my branch - often - works for me.
And then I ate the chocolate anyway.
So, week 1 of 2014 and I'm making the most of what I can get, which this week was bananas. I picked up a bag of 15 for 19p. Some of them were still good eaters, but there were a couple turning very brown, some black. This is the state people think chuck/banana cake, but we wanted to do something a bit different. I had a special request from OH, who doesn't really do breakfast, but wanted some energy bars to help fuel morning exercise. I adapted this recipe from one in an old, old Weightwatchers book to do the business:
Banana Energy Bars
Yes, they're full of sugar, so have limited claim to actually being 'healthy'. But they are full of all natural ingredients and you get slow release energy from the oats as well as fast release from the sugar.
Ingredients and facts:
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C, Gas mark 4. Line and grease your tray (about 17 x 25cm - I used a lasagna dish).
- In a saucepan, slowly melt together the 100g spread, 50g sugar and 50g honey. When it's all melted, set aside to cool down a bit.
- Sift 100g self-raising flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl, add the 125g oats, 50g sunflower seeds and 40g chopped dates.
- Mash the bananas together, mix in beaten egg. Add this to the flour mixture.
- Stir in the syrupy mixture.
- Pour into the baking tray/lasagna dish/whatever you have, and bake for 25 minutes or so. It should be firm to the touch and golden brown.
- Let it cool for a bit, then cut into 10 bars.
Of course, this didn't use many of the bananas... tomorrow I will let you know what I did with the rest. Nothing rude... just another recipe thing.
In the meantime, listen to a creepy story read by creepy old me. It's live now on Pseudopod. I read The Violin Family by James Douglas, which won second place in the Escape Artist Forum's Flash Fiction Contest 2013.